Thursday, November 27, 2014
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19th Century Portraits

History of St. Petersburg Museum: Rumyantsev Mansion


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City View: The Alexander Garden

After agreeing to place statues in the garden, the City Duma then had to determine who deserved one.

Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)

  • The statue of Nikolai Przhevalsky, a naturalist and explorer who traveled through the vast steppes of Central and East Asia cataloguing plants and animals.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A defining feature of St. Petersburg is the various parks and gardens that dot the map from north to south and east to west, providing places of tranquility and quiet in the urban sprawl of Russias second-largest city.

Theres Park Pobedy in the south, which was once home to a brick factory and, more morbidly, a crematorium for the dead during the Leningrad blockade. Theres the Summer Garden along the banks of the Neva, whose fence is so beautiful that, legend has it, a man who sailed all the way from Britain to see the city turned back at the sight of it, as he believed nothing else could match its beauty. North of the center are Krestovsky and Yelagin islands, providing local families an ideal spot to picnic.

One urban oasis that stands out is the Alexander Garden, which abuts the Admiralty building and stretches from Palace Square to Senate Square. Before its reincarnation as one of the citys most popular parks, the area was covered by the fortifications of the Admiralty. A wide avenue was built in front of the building and it became a popular place for the citys aristocracy and nobility to meet and be seen, its fame immortalized in verse in Pushkins Eugene Onegin. It wasnt until 1872 that a decision was made to transform the layout from a pedestrian thoroughfare to a more scenic, natural setting.

Responsibility for the garden fell upon the shoulders of Eduard Regel, a German horticulturalist and botanist who had been in charge of St. Petersburgs botanical garden since 1855. Born in 1812, he graduated from the University of Bonn and was the head of Zurichs botanical garden after completing his studies in Gottingen, Germany. It was thanks to his efforts that St. Petersburgs botanical garden became one of Europes most beautiful.

The Alexander Garden first opened in 1874, named after the then emperor Alexander II, and the park was an immediate hit with locals. In 1880, the St. Petersburg City Duma decided to commemorate the countrys greatest cultural figures with statues of them placed throughout the garden.

While the city government was well in favor of the proposal, deciding who was important enough to earn a statue in the Alexander Garden was another story. Rejected candidates included Saints Cyril and Methodius, who created the Cyrillic alphabet, the poets Gavrila Derzhavin and Nikolai Karamzin, and famed scholar Mikhail Lomonosov.

Of those deemed worthy of being represented in the Alexander Garden was Nikolai Przhevalsky, a naturalist and explorer who traveled through the vast steppes of Central and East Asia cataloguing plants and animals. Unfortunately, his statue is best known today in the park not only because of the stone camel resting at its base but because of Przhevalskys startling resemblance to Iosef Stalin.

The honored (and less Stalin-resembling) artists whose statues can still be seen to this day include Nikolay Gogol, the composer Mikhail Glinka and the poets Mikhail Lermontov and Vasily Zhukovsky.

After the Bolsheviks seized power, the garden was renamed to the Maxim Gorky Workers Garden, a name it would keep until 1989.

During World War II, as the city savagely struggled for survival, none of the trees in the garden were cut down despite the terrible need for firewood in a city dying from cold, hunger and disease by the thousands. However, German shelling and air raids heavily damaged the park, and when the siege was finally lifted at the beginning of 1944, the garden was restored to its former glory.



Thursday, Nov. 27

The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.

Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.

Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.

Friday, Nov. 28

Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.

Saturday, Nov. 29

Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.

Sunday, Nov. 30

Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 1

Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).

Tuesday, Dec. 2

Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.

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